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Suzy Kolber: ‘The Draft is Too Important To Ask Generic Questions’

“That moment is captured forever. It’s the once-in-a-lifetime they just found out they’ve been drafted into the NFL.”

Ricky Keeler

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When you watch the NFL Draft on Thursday night (particularly on ESPN/ABC), you will almost certainly become nostalgic thinking about events from years past. Some of the most prominent memories from past drafts have come during the interviews the draftees do after their name is called. Since 2004, the person who has been doing those interviews for ESPN is Suzy Kolber. 

On the latest episode of the Sports Media With Richard Deitsch podcast, Kolber talked about how she prepares for her job at the NFL Draft. It starts with the Senior Bowl, which she DVRs while covering the Pro Bowl in some years. Then, she usually would go to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine and that’s when she gets to know everything about the potential prospects: 

“That’s just a great opportunity to start hearing the names, seeing the faces, learn the pronunciations, get some of the background. Our friends at NFL Network do such a spectacular job of laying all that groundwork out,” Kolber said. “I am the biggest fan. I am watching that from start to finish.”

On the night before the draft, Suzy Kolber says she makes sure to get to know the players as much as she can and asks them if something is too sensitive for her to ask on stage.

“The night before the draft, these guys are usually assembled at something or they are at their team hotel. That’s my opportunity to get as much 1-on-1 time with as many of those guys as possible so that when they have their biggest moment of their life, I’m not a stranger. I’m a familiar face. We’ve already talked about something we might want to cover. Maybe it’s something sensitive like a parent who has passed or a grandparent who has passed to make sure they are okay with that, how are we going to cover it. Maybe dig a little more into some of the nitty-gritty so that brief interview on the stage is as personal as possible. That’s the ultimate goal.” 

Kolber does not want to conduct a generic interview with a player. The moment is too big for the player and his family. 

“That moment is captured forever. It’s the once-in-a-lifetime they just found out they’ve been drafted into the NFL. The emotions are so high, so that’s why to me, the value is make it as personal as possible. It would be easy to just be generic, but this is one of my absolute favorite events and favorite things I do just because it’s so life-changing and it makes it more fun for me to know the backstory, then the emotion means so much more.” 

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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